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GOP transportation bill may bode ill for Minnesota needs

ALSO: Mortgage “gambling”; staff turnover at St. Peter’s Hospital; a Santorum visit; 8th District politics; a mislabeled-meat recall; Walker’s budget claims; and more.

MPR’s Brett Neely reports on the congressional GOP’s plans for transportation funding and suggests Minnesota may not fare well with what they want to do … or not do: “First, they’d prefer a bill that runs at least four years, rather than a short term extension, or a two-year bill the Senate is working on. Second, said Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., who also sits on the Transportation Committee, there can be no changes made to the federal gas tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1993. ‘We don’t want to raise the gas tax, that’s going to hurt truckers, that’s going to hurt commerce,’ Cravaack said. ‘It’s going to hurt everybody in their pocketbook.’ However, that could be problematic because the gas tax used to be the primary means to raise money for roads and bridges. The amount of money generated by the gas tax for the federal Highway Trust Fund has dwindled through inflation, more fuel-efficient cars and changing driving patterns. Now, Congress must come up with anywhere between $6 billion and $10 billion annually in additional revenue just to keep highway spending at current levels.”

Also at MPR … you read something like the ProPublica/NPR investigation into Freddie Mac’s — ongoing — casino “play” of mortgage foreclosures and you do want to strangle somebody: “Freddie Mac has invested billions of dollars betting that U.S. homeowners won’t be able to refinance their mortgages at today’s lower rates, according to an investigation by NPR and ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom. These investments, while legal, raise concerns about a conflict of interest within Freddie Mac. ‘We were actually shocked they did this,’ says Scott Simon, who heads the mortgage-backed securities team at the giant bond trading and investment firm called PIMCO. ‘It seemed so out of line with their mission, out of line with what Congress wanted them to do.’ ” … And what do we need for this to be illegal?

Not a pleasant picture at the psychiatric hospital in St. Peter. Paul McEnroe of the Strib reports: “Six psychiatrists who treat more than 375 patients at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter have resigned in recent months, protesting the combative style of the facility’s new administrator and leaving almost no experienced psychiatric staff at the state’s only hospital for mentally ill and dangerous patients. The departures are the latest hit to a hospital battered by years of management turmoil, and a new obstacle to Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson’s plans to reform care for the state’s most dangerous patients. Jesson has ordered an investigation into whether the new administrator, David Proffitt — four months on the job — has created a hostile workplace. She hired a Minneapolis law firm to investigate complaints brought by the now-departed forensics medical director and nurses who say that Proffitt made inappropriate sexual remarks during a lecture.” … Well, that’s warming up the crowd.

We may not get the great, ghoulish fun of hosting a Republican debate of our own, but a candidate is stopping at one of our Pizza Ranches. Says Tom Scheck at MPR: “Rick Santorum will be campaigning in Minnesota this week. The former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting at a Pizza Ranch in Luverne, MN. Santorum’s trip comes one day before the Florida primary. He has decided to stop campaigning in that state and start campaigning in other states. He’s making campaign stops in Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado and Nevada over the next two days. Santorum took a break from campaigning over the weekend to be with his child in a Philadelphia hospital. Santorum is the first candidate to make a campaign stop in Minnesota in the lead up to Minnesota’s Feb. 7 precinct caucuses. Texas Congressman Ron Paul made a stop in the state in November.” Get your souvenir sweater vests here …

At the Duluth News Tribune, John Myers files a piece on a semblance of fun in the 8th District: “[A]cross the 8th Congressional District DFLers do have a pretty heated race for U.S. Congress. Former Duluth city Councilor Jeff Anderson, former St. Cloud area state Sen. Tarryl Clark and former 6th District Congressman Rick Nolan of Crosby all are vying for the chance to take on freshman incumbent Republican Chip Cravaack of North Branch. The caucus will include a straw poll for the congressional race but, more importantly, also includes voting for delegates on to the county and eventually congressional district party convention on May 5 at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, where the party is expected to endorse a candidate. … Nolan, who represented north-central Minnesota in Congress from 1977-81, is the only one of the three who has promised to abide by that endorsement process. That promise has endeared Nolan to party activists, and he’s expected to attract the lion’s share of delegates elected at the precinct caucuses, which sets him up to win the party endorsement at the 8th District Convention in May.”

A ton of sirloin is going to the dogs. The Grand Forks Herald story says: “J&B Group Inc., based in St. Michael, Minn., recalled about 2,645 pounds of the products because they are misbranded and contain milk, a known allergen, which is not noted on the label. The recall applies to the company’s 10.5 pound cases of 28-count, six-ounce ‘Ellison Meat Company beef sirloin top butt steak, cap off, no roll, marinated,’ which has a case code of 62149. The other recalled product is the 10 pound cases of 16-count, 10-ounce ‘Ellison Meat Company beef sirloin top butt steak cap off / tenderized with ficin & bromelain’, which has a case code of 62151. … The beef sirloin products were produced between Jan. 1 and Sept. 7, 2011, and were distributed for institutional use in Montana, North Dakota and Texas.” If you’re lunching at Manny’s, you probably don’t have to worry.

Here’s a new mom you might consider sending flowers today … Todd Erzen of the Des Moines Register reports: “Asher Stewardson came into the world on Jan. 26 weighing 13 pounds, 13 ounces. He measured 23 1/2 inches. He is believed to be the biggest baby ever born at Mercy Medical Center without a surgical delivery and follows on the heels of his 15-month-old brother, Judah, who weighed 12 pounds, 1 ounce at birth. Asher is healthy and did not have gestational diabetes. The biggest baby on record in Iowa since 1980 weighed 14 pounds, 13 ounces. Only one-tenth of one percent of all newborns weigh more than 11 pounds at birth, according to information provided by Mercy. Asher’s mom, Kendall, made it through six hours of labor without an epidural. Having Asher as naturally as possible was extremely important to her and her husband, Joshua, who live in Des Moines.” The husband had a say in this?

Apparently Lake Elmo is as anti-business as the whole state. Bob Shaw’s PiPress story says: “The city is shrinking as landowners yank their property out in favor of neighboring areas. Landowners say they are fleeing a bias against business that prevents them from building stores, offices or malls along busy highways. It happened first in 1990, when landowners left Lake Elmo for Oakdale to build a mall and golf course. Then, four weeks ago, owners of 58 acres of land opted out of the city for similar reasons. Indeed, some of the left-behind businesses envy the fugitive landowners. ‘There have been many times in the past 32 years when I wished I was closer to the edge of town so I could be annexed,’ said Ed Gorman, owner of Gorman’s Restaurant in Lake Elmo.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PolitiFact weighs in on Gov. Scott Walker’s claim of wiping out the state’s budget deficit: “In a new campaign ad in heavy rotation on a television near you, Gov. Scott Walker looks directly into the camera to repeat the heart of his message as a potential recall election looms. ‘When I ran for governor, I promised to rein in spending, eliminate the deficit and hold the line on taxes. And you know what? That’s exactly what we did. We had to make some tough decisions, but thankfully, we wiped out a $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes’. … In the 2010 race, Walker made an explicit promise, noted on his campaign website to ‘require the use of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to balance every state budget, just as we require every local government and school district to do.’ This is known as the accrual accounting method, something also used by publicly traded companies. On the Walk-O-Meter, we rated this a Promise Broken. Walker did not use the GAAP approach on his first budget. Indeed, under that approach, the state shows a $3 billion GAAP deficit each of the next two years. And that is the new source of confusion. … So in the ad, Walker is on solid ground to say he eliminating a $3.6 billion deficit. … even though the language in Walker’s ad is somewhat different than his 2010 pledge, it still ignores … tax increases in his budget. The bottom line on Walker’s claim of eliminating a $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes: It’s a mixed message. So is ours: Half True.”